Since we are drawing closer to another national election you see it almost every day. Some politician says something extreme or inaccurate and they have to take great pains to “walk it back” [a contemporary term to denote an apology or at least some clarification]. Ordinary people put things on social media and after considerable thought they decide they should be embarrassed about the post. They realize their expression does not reflect how they really feel. Have you ever experienced a time when you had to adjust your thinking because someone presented you with factual information that contradicted your opinion? You just did not have the whole picture so you began to revise your attitude.
What are we talking about here?
The words that human beings use are very unstable but when it comes to God, His words are not unstable. Packer writes “The words of God…stand forever, as abidingly valid expressions of His mind and thought.”*
In the previous post, I wrote of the dilemma of the contemporary Bible reader. Bible times seem so distant that how can one understand the Bible? As readers we are on the outside, looking in on a middle-eastern world where life seems so strange. Add to that the timeframe of the Bible; everything happened thousands of years ago.
However, God’s life does not change and God’s character does not change. Those two factors help us connect to the Bible.
A third “connection” that helps our understanding is God’s truth does not change. God’s word in this distant land and distant time is the same word that is being read today. “No circumstances prompt Him to recall them; no changes in His own thinking require Him to amend them” [Packer, 78]. Isaiah writes “All flesh is grass….the grass withers….But the word of our God will stand for ever” [Isaiah 40: 6-8]. The psalmist says “Your word, O Lord is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens….All your commands are true….You established them to last forever” [Psalms 119:89, 151-52].
There are many Christians who don’t agree with Packer’s stand on God’s word. Their utmost concern is that Christianity should be used to right the wrong of society, that social justice is a natural application of God’s word. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” means that contemporary Christians should take the concerns of the downtrodden to heart. That neighbor needs to be loved, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, social standing etc. They may take it even further.
As society changes, it seems like the Bible should change along with society. Sins that were sins in Bible times are no longer sins for example. Because they are generally acceptable today, the Bible should change. Detractors of this position like to throw around some heavy-duty words like “humanistic reinterpretation.” They may even say that “social justice” Christians feel that Bible believing Christians are “mired in rigid, unenlightened, antiquated thinking….times have changed, society has progressed and the church [and God’s word] must evolve to keep up.”** They point to words from the Bible like those in Hebrews 4:12 that say “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Martin Luther once said “The Bible is alive; it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
Sounds like a document that is in flux, wouldn’t you say?
Let’s meditate on the words of the psalmist quoted above: “Your commands are true….You established them to last forever.”
I am sorry but I don’t hear flux.
I hear stability.
I am not going to take pot shots at social justice Christians [often referred to as liberal Christians]. I am glad for these brothers and sisters who are in the world trying to make it a better place, trying to right some wrongs, cure some ills and bring Christianity to those who have the greatest needs. I am that type of person also in my walk with Jesus. I am convinced God and His Son Jesus want us to be that type of Christian.
But when it comes to God’s word, I believe that word of Bible times is the word we should believe today. Instead of us changing God’s word to fit our times, God’s word should change us.
I am concerned about Bible-believing Christians [of which I am one] who love to say things like “the church is being led into apostasy and error, while the nation is being led into secularism, moral relativism and depravity….The church can only be destroyed from within if we stray from the Scriptures and contaminate God’s truth with world ideas” [Youssef]. Yes, the Bible is a book that speaks out about some practices that are common today, but rather than handwringing and judging our world, let’s try to bring it back in line with Bible practices, because God’s standards are not outdated. “We need to remember that God still stands behind all the promises, demands, statements of purpose and words of warning that are there addressed to New Testament believers. These are not relics of a bygone age, but an eternally valid revelation of the mind of God toward His people in all generations, so long as this world lasts” [Packer, 79].
When I write something or say something, it may not be the last statement I make on a subject. I change and grow with my experiences; I mature as the months and years go by; I learn new ideas as I encounter new material. That is the nature of a human being. What I felt twenty years ago may not be what I feel today.
But it does not work that way with God. His words had meaning thousands of years ago and they retain that meaning today. That is another bridge to our God, our Father. Yes, the Bible may have been written about a distant land and thousands of years ago but “The Scripture cannot be broken” [John 10: 35].
It is pretty clear…
“Nothing can annul God’s eternal truth” [Packer, 79].
From his book Knowing God
From the blog post “God’s Word Does Not Change” Dr. Michael Youssef